IRTI Summer School 2023: The Calling of the Church in Times of Polarization

3 until 7 July 2023

In the first week of July, PThU Amsterdam will host the International Reformed Theological institute's international summer school. The theme is 'The Calling of the Church in Times of Polarization'. 


In many societies all over the world an increasing polarization between various groups can be observed. Tendencies of polarization extend from the political to the economic and from the religious to the social sphere. Polarization is often motivated by prejudices about differences in ethnicity, race, religion, culture, gender, sexuality, economic or social background. Driven by fear about losing what is regarded as valuable, particular groups become to demonize other groups as cause of imagined or real threats. On the political level polarization becomes manifest in populist movements with the explicit aim to polarize against and distance themselves entirely from any political establishment, as for instance in new political parties in many European countries. In some cases, populists succeed in occupying important positions in traditional democratic countries. In other cases, nationalism is promoted as counterforce to a globalizing world. Different but related is the polarization of groups of native inhabitants towards newcomers, for instance native inhabitants of European countries who fear the arrival of large numbers of migrants from the African continent, often suggestively associated with the worldwide danger of Muslim extremism. In other cases, violence of majorities to religious or ethnic minorities is sanctioned because the minority is regarded as not belonging to the national identity and therefore marginalized, as for instance in Indonesia. Sociologists observe an increasing tension between high-educated people, often living in the cities and with a global orientation, on the one hand, and less-educated people living in the country or poor neighborhoods in the cities and oriented to the local, on the other.

All these instances of polarization affect the church as well. The church worldwide and locally is often deeply divided on highly contested issues, as for instance on how one judges about same-sex relationships, gender or migrants. There is a great gulf between the so-called ‘main-line’ (or ecumenical) and the so-called ‘evangelicals,’ a gulf which can be experienced within one church community. The churches themselves are part of, and internally experiencing, polarization.

Given this increasing (or at least ongoing) polarization of various groups within societies as well as within the churches, what may be the calling of the church? How can the church contribute to a viable society or community where people of different backgrounds and convictions live together peacefully? What should be the role of the church in society? How to cope with polarization within and between the churches and their theologians? How may Bible and tradition shed light on these questions?

Programme and Location

The IRTI summer school will be organised together with other theological institutions from several places around the globe. Students and several professors from the USA, Hungary, Romania, The Netherlands and other countries will participate.

About fifteen sessions of 90 minutes will be held from Monday July 3 till Friday July 7 in the main building of VU University/ PThU. Sessions are in the central lecture hall of PThU, first floor main building VU, unless indicated otherwise.

Participating institutions

The IRTI International Summer School is organised by the International Reformed Theological Institute (IRTI,, in cooperation with partner institutions:

  • New Brunswick Theological Seminary, USA (NBTS)
  • Sárospatak Reformed Theological College, Hungary (SRTA)
  • Debrecen Reformed Theological University (DRTU)
  • Reformed Theological Faculty of J. Selye University, Komárno, Slowakia (RTFS)
  • Protestant Theological Institute, Cluj Napoca, Romania (PTI)
  • Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, The Netherlands (VU)
  • Protestant Theological University, The Netherlands (PThU)


More information will be available as soon as possible. You can also contact IRTI’s secretary, Albert Nijboer, 


H. E. Zorgdrager & P. H. Vos (Eds). (2023). The Calling of the Church in Times of Polarization (Studies in Reformed Theology 46). Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2023 (open access)


Cookies help us improve your experience on our website. Functional cookies contribute to a smoothly running website. Analytical cookies provide us with insight into how users use the website. Marketing cookies allow us to offer you personalised content based on your website visit.